Restoration Weekend Recharges My Batteries

PHOENIX—When I left for Arizona last Thursday morning to take part in Restoration Weekend, I knew I’d be treated to an all-star lineup of attendees, new and engaging ideas, and a beautiful part of the country that I’d always wanted to visit. What I got was one of the most enjoyable events I’ve ever attended.

Each year since 1993, David Horowitz’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture has put on the weekend—first called Dark Ages Weekend—bringing together conservative activists, policymakers and heavyweights.

The 300 or so people who spent the weekend at the beautiful, historic Arizona Biltmore got quite a show. I was delighted to see firsthand the passion and energy of conservatives—many of whom are our readers, which made it all the more special. There wasn’t a person at Restoration Weekend unfamiliar with HUMAN EVENTS or our sister company, Regnery Publishing, whose authors—Horowitz, Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Rep. Curt Weldon, Humberto Fontova, Robert Spencer and Buzz Patterson—were there in force.

You won’t recognize the names of many of the people who attend Restoration Weekend.

At lunch Saturday, for example, I met Bob and Pat Sexton of Tuscon, Ariz., loyal HUMAN EVENTS readers who hold a weekly rally in their hometown to support American men and women serving their country.

And then there was Kenton McCarthy, whom I had dinner with Saturday night. His father, Vern, introduced him to HUMAN EVENTS and, in the process, my colleague, John Gizzi, who’s been writing about politics for 26 years.

A day earlier I ate dinner with Wightman Weese, who worked for years at Tyndale House Publishers in Wheaton, Ill. Today he helps the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in its Chicago office.

What makes Restoration Weekend so special is that the Sextons, McCarthys and Weeses of the world get to interact over the course of four days with U.S. senators, congressmen, TV personalities, etc.

Yesterday morning, for instance, I ate breakfast with Sen. Jim Bunning (R.-Ky.), perhaps better known by most Americans as a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher. The night before, my dinner table (including McCarthy) was engaged in a lively debate with MSNBC commentator Flavia Colgan, one of a handful of Democrats invited—along with Pat Caddell and Marc Cooper—because they have common sense and intelligent ideas unlike many in their party.

I was one of the youngest attendees at Restoration Weekend—I don’t know the average age, but I could probably count on one hand the number of people, including me, in their 20s. It made for interesting conversation.

The best one took place after Friday’s dinner when I joined Andrew Breitbart (who couldn’t go anywhere without a flock of people following), comedian Evan Sayet and real estate guru Brent Somers for a chat that ranged from our politics in high school to the philosophy of Deepak Chopra (who had his own conference at the Biltmore).

Earlier that night new Washington Examiner reporter Bill Sammon was talking up his new book, Strategery, which hits bookstores today—and has already made headlines on the Drudge Report for Sammon’s exclusive interview with President Bush about Sen. Hillary Clinton. Sammon, whom author Tammy Bruce said (accidentally?) is part of the media elite at a panel Saturday, is actually nothing close.

Saturday’s dinner was one of the most moving tributes to the American men and women in uniform that I’ve ever attended. Emceeing the dinner was Swift Boat vet John O’Neill, whose wife Anne recently passed away but told John how important it was he attend Restoration Weekend. O’Neill and Peter Collier oversaw a program that honored winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor. We were then treated to touching speeches from two young Iraq War vets, Sgt. Scott Montoya, winner of the Navy Cross, and Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, the first woman since World War II to win the Silver Star.

Before packing up and heading home to Washington, D.C., Sunday, I had the opportunity to finally meet Rep. John Shadegg, the man HUMAN EVENTS endorsed for House majority leader. It was a pleasure to hear him speak (click here to see my story), and after talking to him afterward, I was just about sold on moving to his 3rd District, which encompasses a large area of Phoenix.

If you have an opportunity to attend Restoration Weekend in the future—the next one will take place in November at the Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Fla.—I’d highly recommend it. As Sen. Bunning said last night, “It’s a way to recharge your batteries.” Senator, my batteries have been recharged.

UPDATE — 10:39 a.m.: In my recap of Restoration Weekend, I neglected to mention the winner of this year’s Annie Taylor Award, named after the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel in 1901.

Former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, the 2002 HUMAN EVENTS Man of the Year, was given the award for his lifetime of public service—first in Missouri, later in Congress and finally as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States.

UPDATE: — 10:50 a.m.: There was another person whom I overlooked: Scott Crofut, co-host (with Dave Marshall) of the radio program Hey Wake Up America.

Crofut was one of the busiest people at Restoration Weekend—running around with his sidekicks to stream audio of the panel discussions and speeches. Make sure you visit for complete audio from the weekend (including Podcasts).

Crofut also happens to be one of the funniest people I ran into at Restoration Weekend. He’s going to have me on his radio program sometime in the coming weeks, so I’ll keep you posted.